The new offensive coordinator for the Raiders, Al Saunders, spoke to the media today for the first time. He has been the most animated coach throughout camp. His encouraging flamboyant nature is hard to miss on the practice field. But these Raiders have had some issues at receiver that could be a tall order even for this coach of 30-plus years of NFL experience -- Darrius Heyward-Bey being the core issue among them.
With all the encouraging words that Saunders seems to have for his quarterbacks and receivers, it can sometimes seem like he is a bit too positive.
"I never gave that any thought. I'm kind of animated in the way I coach, I enjoy the game, I love the players. And when I think somebody does something well, they ought to know they did it well. And when they did it wrong, they ought to know they did it wrong and how to correct it right away. So I've always felt like it's important to let people know if there's something we talked about during the week and he does it really well."
On the other hand, it seems like in Heyward-Bey, he may be dealing with a guy who requires a great deal of encouragement. DHB is known for being a hard worker but that work has yet to materialize into the kind of performances on the field that would justify his having been picked seventh overall two seasons ago. But for Saunders, each baby step is cause for excitement.
"Darrius the other day did a couple of routes, a couple of catches that he hadn't made in a week, and all of the sudden he made that catch. And goodness gracious, that's like seeing your kid when he's little and he has his first concert and he's playing the piano and he goes through the deal and he does it right and you're excited and you're fired up. That's kind of the way I am. I love this game. I love the people that are playing it. I really enjoy seeing people accomplish the things that you're trying to teach them to do well."
Despite Saunders' beaming, that doesn't really sound like a glowing endorsement for a player who is in his third NFL camp. The time for DHB's first piano recital passed two camps ago. Or at least it should have. It is the equivalent of holding the concert and then teaching him how to read music.
So what is it that Saunders sees in DHB that has him beside himself with excitement?
"The thing you see is a guy that can run fast. He is a diligent worker on and off the field."
Yes, we have covered the speed thing and the hard worker thing. Anything else?
"It's very important to him to be a good player and part of coaching people... we're teachers. Our forum happens to be on a field like this or in a classroom talking about X's and O's. And the thing about him is if you have a willing student then you have a chance to make that guy better -- and he is a willing student. He's got some talent that I think just seeing him here, he made some catches yesterday that were just outstanding and the thing I told him the other day was, 'I watched every single play you have brought this year to the Oakland Raiders and there is unlimited talent in that body'... Yesterday -- talk about getting excited -- he made a couple catches that I just came right out of the shoot and I said, 'This is the guy we're looking for!' He can do this. He can do it and... he'll get better. We're excited."
Who knows, those catches Saunders is referencing could be just as he says and signal the beginning of Heyward-Bey becoming the receiver they had envisioned when they drafted him. On the other hand, we heard the same things being said about him in last year's camp.
With the injuries to Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens, and Jacoby Ford, DHB will get plenty of opportunities in the coming preseason games to show on the field of play if he has indeed progressed. He will make this team one way or the other but once the regular season starts, Hue won't put his job on the line to get him the ball. He will have to earn it.
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Danger is, you'll cut Heyward Bey, he'll be snapped up by a Superbowl Ready team, and he'll probably end up being a real game changer for them, and walk off with a ring.............
You also need to take into account that Oakland have had terrible blocking, terrible play callling, terrible offensive play, and terrible QB play almost all of Heyward Beys time in Oakland.
What I'm saying is, when Jason Campbell can only complete 11 passes a game to ANY receiver, why are you expecting Heyward Bey to get 60 catches?Campbell only completed 190 passes last season. Compared to Peyton Manning's 450!
For Heyward Bey to get 80 catches last year, he'd have had to bring in nearly 50% of everything Campbell threw!
This is my point. If a few receivers start lighting it up next season, and having big years, and Heyward Bey still sucks, then start criticising the guy.
But it's not as if Louis Murphy, or any other receiver on the roster has done that much better, or broken through. Even our so called top receiver Miller, only had 600 yards receiving last year. His worst ever season basically.
At least 50% of Heyward Beys problems is that he hasn't got a QB who can complete passes to anyone on the team (yet)The big games Campbell had last year (as in when he played like an average NFL QB), Heyward Bey was bringing in 5-6 passes.
Thing is, the 2009 draft will probably go down as one of the worst of all time.
1: Stafford - has barely played a game
2: Smith - lost the left tackle job immediately. Average at best
3: Jackson - done nothing
4: Curry - average at best
5: Sanchez - been average at best
6: Smith - barely played
7: Heyward Bey - done nothing
8: Monroe - average
9: Raji - stud
10: Crabtree - done nothing
11: Maybin - cut already
12: Moreno - done nothing
13: Orapko - stud
14: Jenkins - demoted to safety already (albeit a very good one)
15: Cushing - stud, but failed drug test
16: English - done nothing
17: Freeman - stud
18: Ayers - done nothing
19: Maclin - stud
20: Pettigrew - pretty good
21: Mack - stud
22: Harvin - stud
23: Oher - good, but had lots of problems last season
24:Jerry - done nothing
25: Davis - stud
26: Mathews - stud
27: Brown - done nothing
28: Wood - average/good
29: Nicks - stud
30: Britt - average/good
31: Wells - done nothing
32: Hood - good
So in the entire first round, you maybe have 9 teams who made picks that have paid off.
And of the first 20 picks, you could argue at least 7 of them could end up complete busts.
What I'm saying is, Al generally always takes a risk in the top 10. High risk, high reward.
The question being, where we were picking, and the top rated players 2009, who would you rather have?
I'd have said it would have been a choice between Heyward Beym Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Aaron Curry, Michael Crabtree, Aaron Maybin at our pick that year...............
And we'd be complaining about most of them.
Give Heyward Bey four full years. It takes even the most polished receivers at least 3 years to "get it"
even though im upset with chaz too, he wasn't the #7 pick either, so thats why the spotlight is on him so much. we need more than him to step up in our passing game, especially the line and campbell. he's gonna be around cause he is a great blocker, and doesn't stop and runs downfield to block the next man. can't believe he still catches with his body. my 10 yr old son was doing that, so i stood him behind a basketball pole and made him reach around it and use his hands only, and it worked! not saying that its right for bey, but heck, i'd try anything!
@massillonraider I agree with you on DHB, that when you are a top draft pick you are scrutinized more. But to me, everyone on the roster needs to be scrutinized.
Chaz is listed as the Raiders' #1 WR. And just what has he done to earn that status? In past years, Chaz has done nothing. He was the #1 WR because of "potential" and the fact that nobody on the roster was a proven veteran. This year there is some talent in camp. I hope Hagan, Miller, Bodiford, and Jackson get a real chance to earn a roster spot. Schilens being injured and keeping a roster spot hurts the team. To give the spot to Schilens in hopes that he recovers from another injury and fulfill his "potential" would be sad!
DHB scares me but I really do hope he comes of age or develops this year. Tucsonmike, I"m with you on the Chaz thing. We need a consistant, reliable number one reciever. Chaz hasn't been in enough games in a row to prove anything.
Enough of the DHB bashing. The kids making progress and I'm happy for him. Hopefully, Al Saunders and Hue Jackson will get DHB involved early. That builds confidence. DHB is a good blocker and a good kid. I'm looking for a 60 catch/6TD season from him.
And if you really want to look at the WRs; where has Schilens been since he made the team 4 years ago? Injured for an entire season. Injured most of his career. How many games has Chaz played? How many catches and TDs? I like Chaz, but you can't live on potential. That's a word usually reserved for people that never reach their potential!
The Raiders have a better group of WRs this year; and if Chaz can't stay injury free, I would cut him or IR him!!! Hagan can play. He is experienced and durable. Preseason will determine who makes the roster. Guys that can stay healthy, and contribute should make the team.
@tucsonmike Saunders didn't say anything about Chaz.
@LDizzle@tucsonmike i dont really care. the bread and butter of this team will and SHOULD BE Moore, Murphy, Ford, Boss, and Ausberry. that's all we really need in my book. and Moore will be our #1 in short time. the plays he will make in the end zone will make the Raider nation believe once more. once our passing attack is solid again, our running game will be that much more potent. then when Campbell has his dump offs and screens to DMAC(hopefully Taiwan Jones as well) .... you suddently have one of the most balanced offenses in the league IMO. that's what this team needs...